Well, I promised a post this weekend and I'll do my best to follow through. Only, my host family and I are going to the seaside ("La Boule") this weekend, so I'm not sure how much time I'll have to write. But I'll try.
SO, I arrived in Poitiers (the capital of my district thingy) after taking the train from Paris--it's a high speed train, and it only took an hour and a half or so.
When I finally managed to get all of my crap off of the train, I found my host family (well, they found me). Voila my host sister, Alice:
Before leaving for St. Yrieix, we attended a picnic lunch hosted by the AFS chapter in my district, with other AFS host families and students. I accepted a glass of cidre de Normandie before they told me that it was alcoholic...whoops!
So, my host family. My host parents are "notaire" and "clerc de notaire"--as far as I can tell, they are some sort of real-estate agent. Their names are Benedicte and Stephane. My host sister, Alice, is 14. She is very nice, and very helpful. Here is a photo of my house. It is in St. Yrieix, sort of the countryside, if you will. There are lots of farms around, and the bus that I take to go home passes a field of horses.
On the other hand, my school, Lycee St. Paul, is in the city of Angouleme. It is about 15 minutes from the house by car(although most of the time we take the bus to school). Here is the view from the ramparts (the city is/was fortified) where I ate lunch with friends on Friday. The group in the second photo is me and three of the four other exchange students at my school (four of us are with AFS, the fifth with Rotary).
So, my school is a private catholic school. But every year, the principal offers scholarships so that exchange students can come and study there. Here is the outside of my school; very reminiscent of Cambridge:
My host sister Alice and my good friend Michela, an Italian exchange student with AFS, on the street that we take to get from school to the bus stop to go home.
Monday was my first day at St. Paul. I didn't have class until 10 (the schedules are SUPER complicated, with week A and B, group A and B, and weirdly blocked out electives and random free periods. Go figure.
SO I hung out in the CDR, sort of a library, and read All Quiet on the Western Front until it was time for class. Then, of course, I had SPANISH class...and when the teacher asks what the word means, she wants to know what the FRENCH equivalent is. Argh! Most of my teachers already knew or figured out pretty early on that I'm not French, and they have been pretty sympathetic. My physique-chimie teacher and my sciences et laboratoire teachers haven't yet figured it out--they pretty much ignore my existence.
So far, I've found that the courses themselves are pretty similar to the courses here. Most of the time when I think something is complicated, I realize that it was just that I didn't understand it because it was in French. The teachers are all quite strict. You have to stand up next to the desk until they come in and tell the class to sit down. If you ask to go to the bathroom, they give you crap. Also, there isn't much technology in class; attendance is written down on a piece of paper and posted on the door for someone to come around and collect. Except in certain classrooms, where there are projectors and the like. But for the most part, teachers dictate their lessons and sometimes write on the board.
As far as my classmates, the french students (or at least those in my class; we have all of classes with some subset of the same group of 35) aren't openly welcoming, but are interested in talking to me. Most of them don't really approach me to talk, etc, but if I strike up conversation they are receptive. And the more I talk about myself and ask them questions, the more they seem to want to talk to me. There are three girls: Phillipine, Marta, and Charlene, who I sit/talk with, and a few of the boys who I know. And I think they are starting to get used to me being there and including me in their class.
Well, with that I must bid you all adieu. Coming up: my trip to the seaside, followed by French cuisine.